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Volgodonsk elders and the government
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, 20 2009
1In November of 2009, the regional public organization promoting the protection of the rights of victims of the Volga-Don terrorist attack launched a project. Itstitle: 'Rehabilitating elderly victims of the terrorist attack by bringing them to a joint event in order to share their experiences and enrich their level of culture and spirituality'. Itis within the framework of the international program 'The Meeting Place is Dialogue'.
Earlier, in October of 2009, our organization asked Volgodonsk mayor V.A.Firsov for help with free premises for the project. Thissocially significant project was for elderly people who suffered from the terrorist attack, so that on Saturdays they could attend lectures on psychology and legal literacy, talks by physical therapists, as well as receive computer training. Theproject also expected to have drawing and essay competitions for children.
The main objectives of the project were: improving the social importance of older people, uniting elderly members and enabling them to share life experiences with young people. Itwas also to divert them from loneliness, to show them that, even in the 'autumn of life', they were still needed.
Allocating room for our month and a half-long project, however, proved a daunting task for city leaders.
In late November of 2009, we, with the assistance of elected representatives from two of the affected regions, appealed to L.G.Tkachenko, deputy chief of staff of social policy for the city of Volgodonsk. Ourrequest was for 2small rooms on the first floor of the library located in the area affected by the terrorist attack, for some support equipment for elderly people affected by the terrorist attack, and for a computer lab and offices for psychological and legal assistance. Lectures on legal literacy and group psychological training were to be held in the reading room of the library. Thefirst floor was very convenient, since participants in the project also included the disabled.
A few years ago there had been game rooms on the premises of the library, but the archives now occupy both rooms. Thefoyer of the library has an empty and sufficiently large, unheated room where previously there had been a shop, then later a pharmacy. Inour opinion it could accommodate the archives.
The library is located at the very edge of the city and has very few visitors. Ourproject would enable the library to become a 'cultural center' for victims of the terrorist attack. Wemet with no understanding from the leadership of the library system, however, nor from the culture department for the city of Volgodonsk. Theyexplained their refusal for use of library facilities by the fact that the library has to conserve electricity, and there was no place to put the archives.
The Volgodonsk city property committee invited us to use the neighborhood council office in the area affected by the terrorist attack. Itis a windowless, unventilated room. Nobody thought that all of this was organized for the elderly.
Nevertheless, in early December we succeeded in presenting our project in the library reading room. Though, it is true, the room temperature did not exceed 14degrees, and under such conditions it is neither possible to lecture, nor to listen. Weasked permission from the librarian to move into the only warm room the library's rather large information center, but another problem occurred. Children play educational games on the two computers located there, so it would be a problem to hold meetings every Saturday for a group of victims from the older generation numbering 3040people. Inaddition, our requests for a tea break at half-time elicited refusal, due to conservation of electricity. Wesolved the problem by bringing in hot water for tea in a thermos.
In his speeches, Russia's president has repeatedly stressed his support for community-based organizations. Fromthe lecture stand they speak of respect for the older generation, which at an incredible price rebuilt this country after the war, but in the meantime we cannot even heat up tea for them at the Volgodonsk library.
The city recently hosted a conference, titled: 'Spiritual and moral education in Volgodonsk'. Howcan we bring spirituality and morality to the younger generation if local authorities cannot do such a little thing allocate space for an entertainment center in a remote district of the city? Yes, this nonprofit project does not profit the library or the city coffers, but can everything really be translated into categories of 'profitable/unprofitable'? Thelibraries still are not privately owned, so we do not understand. Whyhave we met with, on the part of city leaders, such a lack of understanding for the problems of older people affected by the terrorist attack?
Irina Khalai is the chairman of the regional public organization promoting the protection of the rights of victims of the Volga-Don terrorist attack.

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